The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan decimated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The six reactors were subsequently put out of commission and the entire area, extending some twelve miles from the plant, is devoid of life due to measures to protect from radiation. Japan has 54 nuclear reactors and all 54 were gradually shut down for maintenance, leaving Japan with no nuclear energy.
Prior to the March 2011 disaster, thirty percent of Japan’s energy needs were met through nuclear energy. Now the last nuclear reactor being shut down ushers in a time of no nuclear energy, the first time Japan has been without such energy since 1970. Concerns are running high that the lack of nuclear energy will subsequently cause shortages and blackouts. Japan has increased their fossil fuel imports to counteract the lack of nuclear power.
All of the plants have been shut down in order to perform maintenance and ensure that they are able to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. In addition, authorities in the region of each nuclear reactor are required to sign off on whether the plants can come back on line. Thus far, two reactors in the country have been determined to meet the safety requirements but the local government has not approved their use. The government is hoping the two reactors can be used to reduce shortage issues come summer. In recent days Japan has begun operations at one of their plants for the first time in many months. The only nuclear reactor currently generating energy is located in Ohi.
Numerous protests have been held by citizens of Japan in order to push for ending the nuclear program altogether. It is thought that the government is considering ending the nuclear program but economic concerns make it likely the program will continue in the country. The main hurdle at the moment is for the country to endure the summer months without major shortages and blackouts.
Now the final report from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission has been released and may add ammunition to the anti-nuclear sentiments shared by some in the country. After speaking with hundreds of individuals and holding 900 hours of hearings, the panel has indicated that while the tsunami and earthquake were unavoidable, the resulting disaster at the plant was “man-made” in their words.
The panel indicated that there were a number of issues with the response to the disaster, including the government agencies not responding properly or in due time to the crisis. The panel stated: “It was a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.” The panel pointed to regulatory systems failomg due to the government and operator of the plant, Tepco.
The panel stated: “Japan’s regulators need to shed the insular attitude of ignoring international safety standards and transform themselves into a globally trusted entity.” The panel held no punches in their final review and pushed for improved regulations and decreased stagnation from the government.